a story of forgiveness, part 3

Rosa acicularis, AKA Wild Rose, the Prickly Rose, or the Arctic Rose, Attribution I, Ravedave, 15 June 2007, Wikimedia Commons


Isaiah 1:18

“Come now, and let us Reason Together, Saith the LORD: though your sins be as Scarlet, they shall be as White as Snow; though they be red like Crimson, they Shall be as Wool.”

Hat-tip: Kristi Ann for bringing this verse to mind.


While my husband and I were separated I became ill and was hospitalized. He was across the country visiting his sister who was having very serious surgery. This was a terribly lonely time. One of the women from the Bible study, the wife of the preacher, visited me when I was discharged. She spoke to me of the Lord very gently and truthfully and prayed with me. Later when I was alone in my rented room I knelt down and admitted to the Lord that I had messed up my life and asked Him to fix it. I didn’t say a special prayer but was truly sorry. I didn’t have sound doctrinal thoughts about repentance and faith but only my simple need for Him to fix my life. (I haven’t shared much about the sin that brought a kind of ruin because it isn’t best.)

The first change in things was in my nightly prayers for my sister-in-law. I had been saying the rosary for her healing. Gently the Lord impressed upon me that this wasn’t needed, to simply pray for her. The second change was in how I saw things: I understood why my Christian friends said ‘the Lord’ all the time, not just ‘God’. (You may have noticed me using ‘God’ a lot in my testimony. I’ve done this to show you the distance between me and our Holy Lord.) Also, I clearly saw that in this world there are people who are saved and people who aren’t. For the first time I saw the Kingdom of God. 

John 3:3

Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

My sister-in-law’s surgery went well and my husband came home. To his surprise I met him at the airport. I explained all that had happened, my illness and prayer, and how sorry I was for not being a good wife and hurting him. I never felt so sorry for anything in my life. He was puzzled but happy – he wasn’t a Christian yet – but accepted what I had to say as real because of the change the Lord had made in me. We have lived as husband and wife since that time in the summer of 1979.


As the Lord continued to speak to me in His Word, and through my circumstances seen in the light of His Word, I lived in Psalm 119 and learned how He saw my situation, drinking it in. Jesus, thank you! I didn’t want pain but was comforted by Your Word. The following year my husband trusted the Lord Jesus as his Saviour and awoke to a brand new world!

Psalm 119 

65 Thou hast dealt well with thy servant, O Lord,
according unto thy word.
66 Teach me good judgment and knowledge:
for I have believed thy commandments.
67 Before I was afflicted I went astray:
but now have I kept thy word.
68 Thou art good, and doest good;
teach me thy statutes.

71 It is good for me that I have been afflicted;
that I might learn thy statutes.

75 I know, O Lord, that thy judgments are right,
and that thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me.


a story of forgiveness, part 2


Bibbia con rosa by Vortix - Own work. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons - httpcommons.wikimedia.orgwikiFileBibbia_con_rosa.jpg#mediaviewerFileBibbia_con_rosa.jpg


Psalm 119

The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul:
the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple


Soon after my husband and I were married, we moved to the small town where he had grown up. It was a close-knit community and I knew only his family there.

I’d begun to read my Mother’s Catholic New Testament and asked around at the place where I worked for a Bible study. God led me to a home study directed by a young couple who were church planters with the CMA (Christian Missionary Alliance), friendly lovely people. Their group was beginning a study on Ephesians, and there for the first time I encountered Biblical teaching on the Church. I thought it was strange that they were studying “the Church” when I was the one who had a claim to The True Church!

Soon, friction started but not hostility. The young preacher tried to help me understand the true Good News, the Gospel of grace, and to show me that there is only one Gospel as revealed in God’s Word, and that it wasn’t a matter of opinion, it wasn’t something to debate but to submit to. Only Jesus could make me right with God; there was nothing I could do.

Ephesians 2

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.

Historisches_Kinderkarusell

Historisches Kinderkarusell – the painted merry-go-round of this world (Wikimedia)

At times, feeling resentment and loving the world – Vanity Fair, Bunyan called it – and thinking there must be a better way to fix my life and get what I wanted from God, I considered leaving the group, but each week I hurried there.

Though I was fighting the truth that God alone is Lord of the Church and each one of us, and has the right to deal with us as He wants to, I was being drawn to these dear friendly people, experiencing their kindness to one another and me. By God’s doing, they became a fragrance of life to me. (A Thai friend of mine, a Buddhist, once said that when people spoke to her of the Lord Jesus she smelled a beautiful scent like flowers.)

2 Corinthians 2

14 Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. 15 For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things? 

But eventually, under conviction and full of turmoil I left the group. A slave to selfishness, I also left my husband. . . 


a story of forgiveness, part 1


Homemade-merry-go-round

My crisis of repentance and faith came about because I sinned in a certain way. In ancient Israel, this transgression was a capital offense – though for all of us sin brings death, death is its “wages”.

James 1

13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. 14 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. 15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.

But my transgression was probably more selfish, reckless, careless, and cruel than the sins of many other people who are more decent and caring. How I longed to put everything right! But God showed me that nothing could fix things. Life was changed for everyone in any way touched by what I’d done – what we had done.

I didn’t “get” that I’d sinned against God directly, though I did ask for His forgiveness. God didn’t care that my contrition wasn’t perfect – perfect contrition is something that as a Catholic I was taught to strive for. And He wasn’t silent, speaking to me through my circumstances and through people He brought my way, people who believed His Word and told me that I needed to believe it too. They didn’t care that I was a Catholic and had no need like they did because I was a member of The One True Church. This was such a settled fact for me – the True Church – that I didn’t need to even have answers for anyone who questioned it. But the Gospel began to get to me; it was new and different and not focused on me but on God, Someone Whom they spoke of as “the Lord”, a habit which irritated me, that is, that they acted as if He was someone they actually knew personally.

God showed me many things through circumstances, removing my props, so to speak, showing me for instance that my Mom couldn’t step in and fix what I’d done – in fact she had warned me not to sin and ‘prophesied’ disaster over me. My actions had consequences as unyielding as rock. I might be her darling child (though grown), but that meant nothing because I was like any other mother’s darling child – this fact didn’t work with God. Like others before me I’d come up against the pitiless nature of the Law, whether human or Divine. For awhile still, I remained blind and dead in my sins, deluded that I was a special case because of being me. . . 

 

 

 

Autumn – memories of a Catholic upbringing

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5776-a-red-oak-leaf-isolated-on-a-white-background-pv - public domain pictures

HT: Salvageable post – Playing outdoors. J’s post motivated me to write about my childhood. Thanks, J! 

And thank you, all who prayed for my eye surgeries – they went well and my vision is good!

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When I was in grade school and high school, classes began after Labor Day. Memories of this time surface whenever the leaves change. I can see the long hill, the high swings, and the imposing convent of dark stone, its portico and visitors’ parlors…

Many memories of school revive, of our tummies grumbling noisily during the hush of Mass which was just before lunch, of uncontrollable giggling. I remember the Sisters of Mercy as they used to dress, their faces framed by starched white coifs and gauzy black veils, and the snapping of fingers that kept us in line. The Sisters of Mercy – some of them were kind but none could have had a grasp of the Gospel – it would have been a foreign language to them – for they never shared it. 

Because my Mom was single she had to work and couldn’t pick me up after school. When she took off work early to attend a school function late in the day, she dressed up beautifully, and in the cold months wore her cream-colored faux fur coat – on the ride home, I would snuggle against her. 

On my first day of first grade a car appeared and took me and another little girl to Mater Misericordiae Academy. Ronnie – Veronica – became a close friend. Her mother and mine were best friends. Later I learned that during World War II, the Nazis had hanged Ronnie’s grandfather, the mayor of a small city in Italy, because he wouldn’t reveal the name of a partisan who had blown up a bridge and caused the deaths of German soldiers. 

Children live in the shadow of the serious events through which their elders pass, participating in their childlike way in their joys and sorrows and terrors. I learned to love FDR and John Kennedy because of my patriotic Grandmother, for instance, and I had bad dreams after the adults discussed the bestseller, Worlds In Collision, at Sunday dinner. I’m not sure whether they read it but the conversation unsettled my child’s heart and mind.

cropped-han-chenxu-photo-from-microsoft-9c64c0ff-9f0c-49a2-b7ba-659eb77660ed_51.jpgAt school, Halloween was celebrated both as a holy day and a holiday. During assembly we wore costumes which were judged. When I was in second grade, Mom made me a witch’s costume with a hat and stuffed cat.

I see my Catholic childhood as a bright autumn leaf detached from a living tree and not as a bowl of harvest fruit…

 

Celebrating the goodness of God in the Protestant Reformation

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Light after darkness

October 31, 1517

Some Christians belittle the Protestant Reformers as men and as Christians, and even slander them. Others proclaim that “the Protest” is over and rejoice about this. Perhaps some of us don’t have an understanding of history, but whether or not that is true, it is as if many of us see nothing of value in the hard work and sacrifice and Biblical wisdom of our brothers and sisters of former days.

Shouldn’t we be grateful for the Reformers and the Reformation? Isn’t the Reformation one of the greatest blessings the Lord has given us, and one of the greatest works of His Spirit? Today we are looking for and hoping for a wonderful move of the Spirit before Jesus returns, but while this is a good and glorious desire, we should never forget or dismiss what He has done already.  

95 Thesen facsimile

95 Thesen facsimile

Three years from today, on 31 October 2017, if God is willing, we will celebrate the 500th anniversary of the day on which the much maligned Martin Luther nailed his “95 Theses” to the door of the cathedral in Wittenberg, inviting his fellow faculty members to debate errors and questionable practices of the Roman Catholic Church. The Theses were written in Latin. His students translated them into German and published them far and wide. From this humble start of paper and ink, and the questionings of a troubled conscience, the Reformation took off.

Ever since then, there are people who have been working to undo what God did through it, and to injure and destroy the church that He set free to worship Him in spirit and truth. Ever since then, people have been undermining the Reformation’s power to inspire us, by pointing out the sins, biases, failures, mistakes, and foibles of the men whom God chose to use to help us. Of course it is wrong to put the Reformers on pedestals – yes! But it is also wrong to reject them, and to think of ourselves more highly than we should by believing that we are above them, when it was God Who gave them to us for our good.

As a result of the Reformation, we have the Bible in our own languages. As a result of it, the Gospel was recovered and preached in power and faithfulness. Because of this particular day and particular period of history, faithful Christians have preached to you and me, so that we came to trust in Jesus Christ alone and possess the promise of forgiveness and eternal life made certain in His Word.

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my story

Most of my childhood and teen years were overshadowed by a kind of darkness or dimness. No bright summertime, white winter, or holiday glitter could relieve this for long. My Father had died, and by the time I was 7, my Grandpop was gone too. My Mother and I lived with Grandmom. Both my Mother and Grandmom were very sad, though they did their best to love me and provide a good home. Being sent to Roman Catholic schools added to the gloom.

For one thing, the way of life of the sisters who taught us was unnatural and depressing. But most importantly, the knowledge of God was suppressed and therefore withheld from us. The Gospel of the love of God in Jesus Christ was unknown to our teachers, and so they couldn’t share it with us. At school, only temporary joys existed, like friendship and fun – firecrackers that lit the gloom – but there was no deep abiding happiness that could replace the night of my selfishness, because my teachers were in darkness themselves and therefore ignorant of God’s way to help us.

My generous and faithful Mother sacrificed to send me to Catholic school. She tried to give me what she believed was best, but she had no plumbline to measure the rightness of her decisions because she wasn’t schooled in the Bible but in the dogmas of this religious system. My education was very fine in many ways, but it fell eternally short. I thought the Gospel was a book, that is, Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John. I never heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ preached.

Things haven’t improved at this school, and I’m grateful that I attended when I did, because now it has taken up the banner of social justice (“educating young women to live mercy and seek justice”). Of those students who graduated in 2014, almost 30% of those deciding to further their education chose Jesuit institutions: Fordham, Marquette, Georgetown, Saint Joseph’s, University of Scranton, and Boston College.

The Fall 2014 issue of the school magazine consists of 53 pages, the front and back cover, and inside cover matter. There is no mention of Jesus Christ anywhere.

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Some questions and answers

Why did the Reformation happen?

It was God’s sovereign will, His good pleasure:

Psalm 115:3

But our God is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased.

Psalm 119:68

Thou art good, and doest good; teach me thy statutes.

After all this time, what should our attitude toward it be?

We need to say, “Thank you, Lord!” Abraham’s descendants were delivered from slavery to serve Him, and so were we.

1 Thessalonians 5:18

In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

Revelation 15:4

Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? for thou only art holy: for all nations shall come and worship before thee; for thy judgments are made manifest.

How about the Reformers? Don’t we understands things that they didn’t? Aren’t we beyond their concerns?

We need to humble ourselves and admit that we’ve lost many  of the things that they knew. 

Proverbs 13:20a

He that walketh with wise men shall be wise

Jeremiah 6:16

Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein.

What should we do for the Catholics we know?

Pray for them and love them, and be very clear with them about the Gospel, and be patient, for at one time we were all like them: 

1 Corinthians 6:9-11

Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.

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Wittenberg-1536

Wittenberg – 1536

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